Egyptian protesters wait for Mubarak's expected resignation

"We're almost there!" protesters say as hundreds of thousands gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square amid reports that Egyptian president could be poised to hand over his powers.

February 10, 2011 22:12
2 minute read.
Anti-government protesters celebrate in Cairo

Egypt protestsTahrir with flags 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

CAIRO  — The vast Cairo square at the epicenter of more than two weeks of protests was electric and on edge Thursday night, waiting for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's expected televised address with euphoria.

"We're almost there!" chanted the crowds, swelling to their greatest numbers yet. "The people want the fall of the regime," they shouted as reports emerged that the longtime leader could be poised to hand over his powers, possibly to the military, flashing V-for-victory signs. Women made the high-pitched ululations common in the Middle East during weddings.

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Thousands lined up patiently, including women, children and the elderly, waiting to enter the already packed square, while vendors sold flags and headbands in Egypt's colors around them.

But the celebrating in Tahrir Square was tempered with trepidation that behind the scenes the military might already have firmly stepped in and seized control of the country, simply ushering in a new authoritarian regime.

So many resolved to stay put, fearing it was too early to declare victory.

"I am not optimistic. I am afraid that people will feel triumph and leave the square while in fact we have handed power from Mubarak to the army into a military abyss," said Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, one of the young protesters.

Painter Sheikh el-Sayyed Abdel-Rahman was more blunt, calling it a coup.

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"They want to turn it from a revolution into a coup. We want a civilian state with no discrimination and no military," he said, echoing Egypt's last great upheaval when army officers in 1952 preempted rising popular dissatisfaction with the monarchy through a coup, ushering in half a century of military-dominated rule.

Organizers feared a departure by Mubarak might take the wind out of the movement's sails without any real reform of the system. A number of protesters acknowledged privately they wouldn't mind finally leaving the square and resuming their normal lives.

Most of the veterans of the demonstration that has riveted this country and already extracted a number of promises of reform from a seemingly invincible police state said they planned to stay until demands such as amending the constitution and dissolving parliament are met.

"Whatever they say, it doesn't mean we're going to pick up our tents and leave. We still have demands," said Magdy Mahmoud, a 37-year-old lawyer. "The will of the people must be realized."

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